One of the great side effects of derby is increased confidence. Each time I get on skates I am nervous. I feel inadequate. I feel a little intimidated. Then I start to feel the wheels, and my legs warm up and my heart starts beating and I stop thinking about what I can’t do because I am focusing on what I am being challenged to do. I am skating forward. Awesome. I am picking up some speed. Hurray. My crossovers are smoother and more rhythmic. Yippee. And then, a new skill is introduced and suddenly I am skating backward or doing transitions or sliding to a stop on my toes, and each new skill that is introduced brings a momentary slight panic that it’s something I can’t do. But then the next thing I know, I am listening to the trainer or a vet give me pointers, breaking everything down, and making it look so easy. All I can do is focus, listen, and try it and then, ta-da! I fall on my ass. I get up. I stumble through it. Maybe I fall on my ass again. But, eventually, it comes.
So, here’s the amazing thing. Falling on my ass has been one of the best things in the world for me. Because, when I fall on my ass, there are a team full of girls there saying “Great fall! You’re really pushing yourself!” and they really mean it. Falling in derby means you’re learning. It means you’re living. And it means that you can take the bump and get up and keep going.
Something happens when you hit the floor and you bite it hard. Hard enough to rattle your bones. Hard enough to make you pee your pants. You feel pain, and sometimes it is a lot of pain. I have fallen so hard my legs turn to jelly when I stand back up again and it takes a few minutes to skate it off. But those things are just a part of it. Taking a digger, feeling the pain, and getting back up again triggers an emotional and mental response that I have never experienced before, and it’s the reason any derby girl will proudly show her “derby kisses”. You begin to feel your strength. For me that was a feeling I didn’t recognize and it is addicting. You begin to understand your personal power when you get up, shake it off, and get back to work. You skate the practice out, finish crusty, salty, achy, tired, and triumphant. There is a high that I feel after a good practice, when I have made it through the whole thing and did something I didn’t know I could do. That feeling has filtered through derby practice and has started affecting the way I feel when I am not on skates. It feels good. It feels like something I have missed my whole life. If I take nothing else away from derby, that in itself is priceless.